War Horse(s)

The Canada Weekly, April 15, 1916, page 78.

I have read the story, seen its inspiration included in an exhibit at the Imperial War Museum, London and also watched the theatre production at the New London Theatre in Drury Lane. It is War Horse the story by Michael Morpurgo that has inspired so much discussion of the horse in war and the Great War in general.

The horse’s role was varied, pulling wagons, artillery limbers and guns, used with cavalry and yeomanry units and more. A few weeks ago a CBC installment of November 6, 2011 reminded me of much I have seen while travelling about. Napoleon’s horse skeleton, “Marengo” at the National Army Museum in Chelsea, the horse memorial on the Somme, various cavalry museums, lances, swords, tunics and other associated gear and insignia.

Yet it is from the introduction to the children’s novel by Mr. Morpurgo that I wish to turn. Here he describes, self-admittedly, a painting of an “invented” horse named “Joey”, and whose tale takes him to the mud and slaughter of France and Flanders. In creating this fictionalized horse, Mr. Morpurgo sets in place the main character of his story, but for someone like me it makes me think about all those historic pictures, paintings, objects out there waiting for their story to be told.

Although much remains in the way of First World War memorabilia, one cannot help but wonder what stories are associated with the multitude of silent witnesses that sit upon hearths, lay stored away in an attic or sit in a box. Sometimes their tales can be told, when once again unearthed and the dirt and newsprint cleared away a plaque revealed gives a clue, a name, a date or place.

Still I cannot help but wonder about all those things without stories that when watched over for a time and with a bit of imagination take us back to their time. We can ask who are you, where have you been and what have you seen? And again the sounds of ambling troops on the march as their gear echoes the cadence of their feet, the sounds of the guns, the larks, whistles and the barking of orders. But wait what is that, have I just heard the horse’s cry, his or her neighing above the din of war?

A new exhibit has just opened at the National Army Museum in Chelsea and is on until August 2012.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


One Response to “War Horse(s)”

  1. pferguson pferguson says:

    Tags updated.

    Link to http://www.nam.ac.uk/microsites/war-horse/1192/blog/morpurgos-myth-revealed/ (interview with Michael Murpurgo) removed 14 September 2019 as it no longer links directly to blog. The link provided details of Emily Butcher’s “Murpurgos Myth Revealed”, War Horse Fact and Fiction, National Army Museum, 31 October 2011. See also Malone & Jackman, “Adapting War Horse: Cognition, the Spectator and a Sense of Play”

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